Microsoft (MSFT) may have downgraded the Kinect 2 to an optional accessory for the Xbox One in a cost-cutting move, but that doesn’t mean the advanced motion detection peripheral is a bust.
While it might not make sense as mandatory console accessory — it made the Xbox One the most expensive of next-gen consoles, and not all games actually took advantage of its capabilities — Kinect technology has a growing number of real-world applications. That’s why there is considerable excitement over the upcoming release of the Microsoft Kinect 2 as a peripheral for Windows PCs.
The original Kinect motion sensor was first released as an add-on for the Xbox 360.
While there was initial buzz from game developers, it turned out that the Kinect wasn’t really suited to the kind of games most people bought an Xbox 360 to play. First-person shooters like Electronic Arts’ (EA) Call of Duty require precision control, zero lag and plenty of buttons and joysticks for cycling through weapons and targeting enemies. Lacking that precision, Kinect games gravitated toward kid-friendly exploration titles or dance games.
In addition, the initial promise of the Microsoft Kinect was somewhat tempered by the reality of its technical limitations. It was impressive, but relatively low-resolution cameras with a limited field of view and poor performance in low-light situations were a reality check.
Despite the somewhat cool reception from the Xbox crowd, the Kinect became a hit with PC developers when Microsoft released the device for Windows in 2012. The Windows version was not compatible with the Xbox version (despite using identical hardware), but it came with a software development kit, a $249 price tag and even a $100 academic pricing discount. PC developers quickly found a range of applications where Kinect could be used as a futuristic, hands-free controller.
Microsoft has a web page showcasing some of the applications developers found for that original Kinect sensor. Medical and healthcare uses have been especially promising. For example, the Microsoft Kinect has been adapted for use in the operating room, allowing surgeons to manipulate CAT scan and X-Ray images projected onto a large display without having to physically touch printed copies. Microsoft says the Kinect is also being used for retail and educational applications.
Well, the market for hands-free PC control has continued to expand, and competitors have arrived.